Nursing Home Abuse Causes
With such a high prevalence of nursing home abuse cases, it may seem alarming that it continues to occur. However, change can’t come about unless the reasons for why nursing home abuse occurs are thoroughly examined and rectified.
There are many reasons why nursing home abuse occurs. The causes of nursing home abuse largely depend on the individual nursing home, its quality, the caliber of care staff, and overall facility management. If a nursing home lacks resources and professional management and supervisions, then it becomes difficult to properly operate a successful home. This leads to the quality of care suffering which perpetuates neglect and even abuse.
In addition to the individual factors and circumstances of each nursing home, the types of residents and their unique needs also play a role in how nursing home abuse is carried out. High-need patients, women, LGBT, and veteran residents are at greater risk of being abused. Patients with severe physical and cognitive disabilities are also targets of abuse and neglect.
Below are some of the top reasons why experts feel that nursing home abuse occurs.This is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Staffing shortages
- Lack of staff training and experience
- Underpaid staff
- Poor supervision, management and accountability
- Individual caregiver issues
- Individual resident risk factors
Nursing homes can only operate to the best of their ability as long as they have the staff required to fulfill their duties. Staff can only provide the standard of care if they are supported by other staff and are working in a team environment.
As soon as any organization – especially a nursing home – faces a staff shortage, responsibilities get dropped, standards of care fall, and certain duties are neglected. This is because staff members are forced to start prioritizing certain needs of residents over others. Over time, this neglect can lead to long-term failure to provide basic needs which can constitute abuse.
When a nursing home is chronically understaffed, it creates a stressful and hostile environment for staff and they begin to become disgruntled and bitter about their jobs. They feel unsupported and ill-equipped to do their jobs. Over time, certain staff members may become frustrated and take their frustration out on residents. This could result in the care staff physically or verbally attacking residents. Eventually, this can turn into a habit and continued abuse can occur and against multiple residents.
Nursing homes may have a full line of staff, but if the individual staff members aren’t properly trained or don’t have the experience, then they cannot perform all the duties of their jobs. Additionally, if staff don’t receive ongoing training to adapt to the shifting needs of residents then they cannot provide the necessary care required.
Improper training ultimately impacts residents and their quality of life. When staff don’t have the experience or the education to know how to provide personal care, medical attention and other supports for elderly people, a number of unfortunate consequences can ensue.
A lack of support and provision of care is considered nursing home neglect. If the situation worsens, and residents are subsequently deprived of basic needs, it can go so far as to be considered nursing home abuse.
Undertrained staff can come in many forms:
- Not having the educational and vocational training required
- Not having a work experience background in a nursing home environment
- Not being trained on the specific policies of the nursing home
- Lack of understanding of the rights of residents
- Lack of ongoing, on-the-job training and development
- Inadequate training for specific disabilities, illnesses and needs
Additionally, it is commonly reported that nursing home staff members feel as though they don’t have the tools they need to handle aggressive or violent residents. A common symptom of old age is developing aggressive behavior due to cognitive decline. Many elderly residents direct their aggression towards their caretakers, typically unknowingly.
Care staff who don’t have the proper training and experience may retaliate or misunderstand the intent. As a result, some may feel more inclined to act abusively or neglectfully towards those particular residents.
The majority of nursing homes are privately run businesses. Because of this, there aren’t across-the-board standards for pay rates for staff. The reality is that some nursing home staff members are paid more than others depending on the nursing home.
Many nursing home caregiving staff feel underpaid and undervalued and therefore aren’t motivated to provide high levels of care. Without motivation to provide a certain standard of care, many residents become neglected or abused by staff who don’t feel compelled to help or go above and beyond. Over time, this leads to low morale which creates a culture of accepting low standards of care.
Poor Nursing Home Management
Another reality of nursing homes is that some of them are simply run better than others. If nursing homes don’t have the leadership, management, and supervision required to run a safe operation, then standards slip and neglect can easily occur.
Additionally, if nursing home management members don’t set high levels of accountability in regards to resident care, then the staff don’t feel compelled to provide it. A continued lack of accountability and leadership breeds an environment where neglect and abuse can continue without consequence.
Other Caregiver Issues
Occasionally, there are circumstances where nursing homes are well-run, with a full staff of highly trained and properly screened personnel, yet there are rogue individuals who commit abuse for their own personal reasons.
Like anywhere in society, there are always certain individuals who have issues that make them more likely to act neglectfully or abusively towards others. Sometimes, these people work in nursing homes directly with senior citizens.
There are countless reasons why these bad apples commit abuse. Generally, though these caregivers have issues of their own that are contributing factors as to why they may justify abusive and neglectful actions.
Individual caregiver issues that cause nursing home abuse may include:
- Burnout and stress
- Personal issues at home such as divorce or financial troubles
- Poor personal health and illness
- Mental illness
- Personal history of being abused
Because these individuals are dealing with their own personal issues, they may bring their frustration to work. Instead of having their own outlets for their frustration, they act abusively towards their residents who are seen as easy targets.
Resident Risk Factors for Nursing Home Abuse
In addition to the reasons why some nursing homes experience greater rates of abuse and neglect than others, there are also risk factors that make certain residents more susceptible to being abused and neglected.
Residents who are seen as needier, more time-consuming, or different in some way from other residents are more likely to be abused or neglected. Some of the risk factors that make certain residents more like to be subjected to nursing home abuse include:
- Cognitive Illnesses: Residents with cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia may require more work because it presents a communication barrier for staff.
- Mental Illness: Residents who have suffered past traumas, or who have depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder may be more susceptible to both being abused and perpetuating abuse.
- Physical Disabilities: Physical disabilities provide an additional challenge for care staff. Because of this, these residents require additional care which fosters feelings of frustration in some caregivers.
- Access to Wealth: Residents who are known to be wealthy or have access to wealth are more likely to be targets of financial abuse in nursing homes.
- Being Female: Women are more likely to be abused in nursing homes than men are. This is because women are commonly perceived to be easier targets and because women live longer. There are also statistically more women than men residing in nursing homes.
- Having Additional Needs: When there are certain residents of a nursing home that have additional needs that go above and beyond the average resident, these individuals are more likely to face different forms of neglect or even abuse over time.
There are countless other factors at play when it comes to reasons why nursing home abuse and neglect occur. Each nursing home operates under its own policies and procedures and often times this winds up being the deciding factor when it comes to whether abuse takes place or not.
It’s important to do extensive research when selecting a nursing home. It is wise to look into staffing levels, staff wages, management style, and the history of the nursing home to get a better feel for its overall care philosophy.